Who are we? What is this site?

We’re a group of teachers who meet about once a month in Bern, Switzerland. We’ve also developed a peer observation process for teachers. During group meetings, we come with an idea we want to share, or a question we want to ask and try to touch on all the topics. After meetings, we’ll post an update here.

The peer observations take place in the classroom. It’s a process aimed at providing professional development to teachers, and is an opportunity to grow professionally in a mutually beneficial, friendly and inclusive learning environment.

The idea is to share information and start discussions–not to pretend we have all the answers! It’s also a time to meet people and relax. We want to learn more about all aspects of teaching, and this site is part of that journey. Check the calendar below for the date of the next meeting, then check the blog closer to the date to find out the topic and what material we will be discussing.

You can also add ELT Springboard to your own calendar by clicking this link.

Get in touch with Ben or Dave if you want to join us!

 

22nd June – The perfect student?

What makes a perfect student? I’m sure you can recall people in your courses who were a real pleasure to have. They did their homework, asked engaging questions, helped their classmates, made notable progress, and continued to sign up for the next course. Likewise, you’ve probably had poor students who showed none of these traits. There are also the mystery cases, when someone stops attending the course at some point for some reason, and we never find out why.

Read this short article for some insights. How do the factors listed fit with your experience? Can you use the strategies in order to foster more “perfect students”?

Come to our next get-together on 22nd June at The Fitting Room at Welle 7 in Bern and share! Hope to see you there.

30 May–New Year’s Resolutions follow-up

Well, it’s been a few months and I think it’s a good time to check in on our New Year’s Resolutions! Hopefully those of you who were with us in January can make it again and give us an update about how it’s been going. I think my change had a good effect on my student evaluations, but we’ll see if their exam scores have improved!

Related to this, one of the things I really like about summer is the chance to kind of step back and get a bunch of crazy ideas for the next year (not to actually do them all, but just to think about problems and solutions). Action research is a good way to test your hypotheses and this article has a good framework for getting started: Four steps to conducting action research in the classroom. After our updates, we’ll brainstorm some of the issues we’re facing in our own classrooms and methods of researching them using Dr O’Byrne’s advice.

Hope to see you in the Fitting Room on 30 May at 8pm!

Jigsaw pursuit

Although I wasn’t at the last get-together, I wanted to share a jigsaw-method activity I thought up after being inspired by the article and post ‘Jigsaw tasks‘) and tested it out yesterday and the day before, with three different groups of low-level learners. It was a success because I used it as a follow-up, merging two lessons (vocabulary on animals, and pronouncing the alphabet) and expanding it into what turned out to be a Jigsaw-like activity.

Using magnets of alphabet letters (10.- for a set of 33 letters) I had the group, in plenum, sort them into two categories according to sounds, with those letters (stuck onto a metal flip-chart board) which go with the indefinite article A (to the left) and, to the right, those which go with AN, like so:

IMG_5717

TIP: You can use a hat or other container for them each pick a few letters out at random, to make sure all participate in sticking those letters up.

Strategy: Don’t correct or interfere right away, let them work as a team first. When they’re done, ask them: “a E, or an E?”  “a O, or an O?”, etc. Then, when it’s sorted correctly, select one to read the left column and a second to read the right column. (Correct pronunciation –  ‘ex’, not ‘ix’, etc.)

Developing from there, they compile a list of words which they recall from a previous lesson.  (As I had too few participants, we did this in plenum):

IMG_5716(NB: ipex should read ‘ibex’)

For the Jigsaw method, each group would use an A3-size sheet to list their words.  They get into groups or three or four and I assign each a different task:

One group is to compile animals (wild/livestock/pets—doesn’t matter, since we already looked at these). For uncanny letters, help them (i.e. with ibex, numbat, unicorn*, x-ray tetra—and don’t forget ‘yaks‘).  *one participant actually got ‘unicorn’ without my help, so don’t jump in too quick.

A second group has to compile adjectives they can remember, and a third group is to find verbs which they have already used and then to search a dictionary to complete the set of 26. (They probably will get ‘x-ray’; help them with ‘zero in’ ‘zigzag’)

Monitor each group and when they’re done you can post their work, for them to go round taking snapshots with their phones.  (Or if you’ve set up your groups for WhatsApp, why not take the shot yourself and post it to the group!)

As a post-activity you can have them try and combine sets to form funny, bizarre sentences. This can be set as homework.

I welcome any comments below (if you should point out a blind spot for me).   ThankS!

 

Order of adjectives and adverbs

From Markus: we also touched on the order of adjectives yesterday. Below I’ve inserted links to two websites that deal with the problem. I find them quite enlightening. As you can see, the suggested order of adjectives is not exactly the same on both websites, but I see that as a minor problem.

It was great to see you yesterday. Looking forward to the next Springboard meeting. Have a good weekend! Markus

http://web2.uvcs.uvic.ca/elc/studyzone/410/grammar/adjord.htm

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/english-grammar/adjectives/order-adjectives

From Graham:

Thanks, this is interesting: I never concerned myself with it before. But I did have to teach the order of adverbs. Here is a good web site:

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Order-of-Adverbs.htm

The “royal order of adverbs” is 1. Manner 2. Place 3. Frequency 4. Time 5. Purpose, as in the following example: “I have to run quickly (manner) down the street (place) each morning (frequency) after breakfast (time) in order to catch my bus to school (purpose).”  But the order of adverbs is a guide, rather than a law. Changing the order often changes the meaning or emphasis of a sentence.

 

 

Mosaik schools

We talked a little last night about immersion teaching, using English or French for instance as the language of instruction in other subjects.

We also talked about mixed-age classes and group based methods of learning. I mentioned the school where I help, Munzinger, which is the largest school using the Mosaik project. Here are some links

Start in 2014: http://www.bernerzeitung.ch/region/bern/Groesste-Mosaikschule-der-Schweiz-startet-ihren-Betrieb/story/28966060

Report in 2017: http://www.bernerzeitung.newsnet.ch/region/bern/gute-noten-fuers-freie-lernen/story/21490763

http://www.mosaik-sekundarschulen.ch/

“Die Schüler und Schülerinnen einer mosaik-sekundarschule werden nicht in Jahrgangsklassen eingeteilt. Die Einteilung erfolgt in altersgemischte und leistungsheterogene Gesamtklassen. Im Kurssystem lernen die Schülerinnen und Schüler in Leistungs- und Interessengruppen.  ”

Graham

 

Jigsaw tasks

I’ve discovered an inspiring website stuffed full of resources, called Cult of Pedagogy. It’s aimed at school teachers, but certain articles apply to us language teachers as well. This page is about jigsaw tasks. There’s also a well done video about them here.
Do you use jigsaw tasks in your courses?
On Thursday 27th April, we’ll discuss information gap activities like the jigsaw, and other kinds of effective task based learning activities.
We’ll be at The Fitting Room, Welle 7, from 8:00 to around 10:00 pm.
Come be a part of it!

28 March–ELT Springboard’s Next Meeting

Hi again everyone! I’m looking forward to our next meeting in two weeks and I think I’ve got something everyone has an opinion on: TEACHING GRAMMAR. It’s an old article, but many of the issues in Grammar, Power and Bottled Water (Thornbury, 1998) are still with us. Some questions for you to consider while you read:

  • Who “owns” the teaching material we use in our lessons? Academics? Publishers? Teachers? Students? What difference does it make?
  • To what extent have things changed in the last 20 years? Are your coursebooks structured by grammar, notions, tasks, other?
  • How do you structure your lessons when you don’t use a coursebook?
  • How far do you agree with Thornbury’s characterisation of the teaching in the section “Class struggle”?
  • Have we arrived in “Post-grammar”? Do you teach grammar in your lessons? When and why?

I look forward to discussing these topics and others with you on 28 March at 8pm in The Fitting Room (right next to the Bern train station). Please leave a note in the comments to RSVP. See you soon!